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Mississippi legislators Could Call Hearings Over School Rating System Change

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 03 Aug 2012 12:35pm | comments

Mississippi legislators could call hearings later this summer to examine a decision by the state school board to change Mississippi's school rating formula. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that for one year, the graduation rate of a Mississippi school will not factor into what rating the school receives.

In order for a Mississippi school to rank in the top two tiers, a high percentage of its students had to graduate.

A recent decision by the state school board suspends that requirement for a year.

The chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education Dr. Wayne Gand says it was unfair to only apply graduation rates to the top performing schools.

"To me, and the board voted, that they felt that that was not fair to those districts. Keep in mind they have to achieve...you say we lowered standards, we did not lower standards. They have achieve the star school standard to be labeled star school in the first place," Gand said.

Gand says the change is only for one year, and that the board could re-examine the rating system next year.

The decision caught the attention of education leaders around the state.

Senate education committee chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford says dropping graduation rates looks bad and he might call hearings to ask the school board to explain the decision.

"I think there is more to the story than that. And we are going to dig into that a find out. Certainly moving forward, we need to have a goal of improving our graduation rate, which is one of the worst across the country, and improving our high school dropout rate," Tollison said.

The board's decision also surprised education-reform advocates like Rachael Canter with Mississippi First.

"Those kinds of decision are the kinds of decision that hold us back. We need to make sure that we are holding schools and districts accountable for achievement for all children at every level of our K-12 education system," Canter said.

This is not the only change happening to the school rating system.

Starting this fall, the state is scrapping its old seven-tiered rating system in favor of an A through F letter grading system. Not factoring graduation rates could bump a few more schools into the A and B categories.

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